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Antithrombotic Therapy and Prevention of Thrombosis, 9th Ed: American College of Chest Physician Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines Online Only Articles |

Prevention of VTE in Nonsurgical PatientsPrevention of VTE in Nonsurgical Patients: Antithrombotic Therapy and Prevention of Thrombosis, 9th ed: American College of Chest Physicians Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines FREE TO VIEW

Susan R. Kahn, MD; Wendy Lim, MD; Andrew S. Dunn, MD; Mary Cushman, MD; Francesco Dentali, MD; Elie A. Akl, MD, MPH, PhD; Deborah J. Cook, MD, MSc(Epi); Alex A. Balekian, MD, MSHS; Russell C. Klein, MD; Hoang Le, MD, FCCP; Sam Schulman, MD; M. Hassan Murad, MD, MPH
Author and Funding Information

From the Department of Medicine (Dr Kahn), McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada; the Department of Medicine (Drs Lim and Cook), Division of Hematology and Thromboembolism (Dr Schulman), and the Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics (Drs Akl and Cook), McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada; the Department of Medicine (Dr Dunn), Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY; the Department of Medicine (Dr Cushman), University of Vermont and Fletcher Allen Health Care, Burlington, VT; the Department of Clinical Medicine (Dr Dentali), University of Insubria, Varese, Italy; the Department of Medicine (Dr Akl), University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY; the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine (Dr Balekian), Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA; the Huntington Beach Internal Medicine Group (Dr Klein), Newport Beach, CA; the Department of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine (Dr Klein), University of California Irvine School of Medicine, Orange, CA; the Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian (Dr Le), Newport Beach, CA; the Pulmonary Division (Dr Le), Fountain Valley Regional Hospital, Fountain Valley, CA; and the Division of Preventive Medicine and the Knowledge and Evaluation Research Unit (Dr Murad), Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

Correspondence to: M. Hassan Murad, MD, MPH, 200 First St SW, Rochester, MN 55905; e-mail: Murad.Mohammad@mayo.edu


Funding/Support: The Antithrombotic Therapy and Prevention of Thrombosis, 9th ed: American College of Chest Physicians Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines received support from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [R13 HL104758] and Bayer Schering Pharma AG. Support in the form of educational grants were also provided by Bristol-Myers Squibb; Pfizer, Inc; Canyon Pharmaceuticals; and sanofi-aventis US.

Disclaimer: American College of Chest Physician guidelines are intended for general information only, are not medical advice, and do not replace professional medical care and physician advice, which always should be sought for any medical condition. The complete disclaimer for this guideline can be accessed at http://chestjournal.chestpubs.org/content/141/2_suppl/1S.

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians (http://www.chestpubs.org/site/misc/reprints.xhtml).


Chest. 2012;141(2_suppl):e195S-e226S. doi:10.1378/chest.11-2296
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Background:  This guideline addressed VTE prevention in hospitalized medical patients, outpatients with cancer, the chronically immobilized, long-distance travelers, and those with asymptomatic thrombophilia.

Methods:  This guideline follows methods described in Methodology for the Development of Antithrombotic Therapy and Prevention of Thrombosis Guidelines: Antithrombotic Therapy and Prevention of Thrombosis, 9th ed: American College of Chest Physicians Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines in this supplement.

Results:  For acutely ill hospitalized medical patients at increased risk of thrombosis, we recommend anticoagulant thromboprophylaxis with low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH), low-dose unfractionated heparin (LDUH) bid, LDUH tid, or fondaparinux (Grade 1B) and suggest against extending the duration of thromboprophylaxis beyond the period of patient immobilization or acute hospital stay (Grade 2B). For acutely ill hospitalized medical patients at low risk of thrombosis, we recommend against the use of pharmacologic prophylaxis or mechanical prophylaxis (Grade 1B). For acutely ill hospitalized medical patients at increased risk of thrombosis who are bleeding or are at high risk for major bleeding, we suggest mechanical thromboprophylaxis with graduated compression stockings (GCS) (Grade 2C) or intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC) (Grade 2C). For critically ill patients, we suggest using LMWH or LDUH thromboprophylaxis (Grade 2C). For critically ill patients who are bleeding or are at high risk for major bleeding, we suggest mechanical thromboprophylaxis with GCS and/or IPC at least until the bleeding risk decreases (Grade 2C). In outpatients with cancer who have no additional risk factors for VTE we suggest against routine prophylaxis with LMWH or LDUH (Grade 2B) and recommend against the prophylactic use of vitamin K antagonists (Grade 1B).

Conclusions:  Decisions regarding prophylaxis in nonsurgical patients should be made after consideration of risk factors for both thrombosis and bleeding, clinical context, and patients’ values and preferences.

Note on Shaded Text: Throughout this guideline, shading is used within the summary of recommendations sections to indicate recommendations that are newly added or have been changed since the publication of Antithrombotic and Thrombolytic Therapy: American College of Chest Physicians Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines (8th Edition). Recommendations that remain unchanged are not shaded.

2.3. For acutely ill hospitalized medical patients at increased risk of thrombosis, we recommend anticoagulant thromboprophylaxis with low-molecular-weight heparin [LMWH], low-dose unfractionated heparin (LDUH) bid, LDUH tid, or fondaparinux (Grade 1B).

Remarks: In choosing the specific anticoagulant drug to be used for pharmacoprophylaxis, choices should be based on patient preference, compliance, and ease of administration (eg, daily vs bid vs tid dosing), as well as on local factors affecting acquisition costs (eg, prices of various pharmacologic agents in individual hospital formularies).

2.4. For acutely ill hospitalized medical patients at low risk of thrombosis, we recommend against the use of pharmacologic prophylaxis or mechanical prophylaxis (Grade 1B).

2.7.1. For acutely ill hospitalized medical patients who are bleeding or at high risk for bleeding, we recommend against anticoagulant thromboprophylaxis (Grade 1B).

2.7.2. For acutely ill hospitalized medical patients at increased risk of thrombosis who are bleeding or at high risk for major bleeding, we suggest the optimal use of mechanical thromboprophylaxis with graduated compression stockings (GCS) (Grade 2C) or intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC) (Grade 2C), rather than no mechanical thromboprophylaxis. When bleeding risk decreases, and if VTE risk persists, we suggest that pharmacologic thromboprophylaxis be substituted for mechanical thromboprophylaxis (Grade 2B).

Remarks: Patients who are particularly averse to the potential for skin complications, cost, and need for clinical monitoring of GCS and IPC use are likely to decline mechanical prophylaxis.

2.8. In acutely ill hospitalized medical patients who receive an initial course of thromboprophylaxis, we suggest against extending the duration of thromboprophylaxis beyond the period of patient immobilization or acute hospital stay (Grade 2B).

3.2. In critically ill patients, we suggest against routine ultrasound screening for DVT (Grade 2C).

3.4.3. For critically ill patients, we suggest using LMWH or LDUH thromboprophylaxis over no prophylaxis (Grade 2C).

3.4.4. For critically ill patients who are bleeding, or are at high risk for major bleeding, we suggest mechanical thromboprophylaxis with GCS (Grade 2C) or IPC (Grade 2C) until the bleeding risk decreases, rather than no mechanical thromboprophylaxis. When bleeding risk decreases, we suggest that pharmacologic thromboprophylaxis be substituted for mechanical thromboprophylaxis (Grade 2C).

4.2.1. In outpatients with cancer who have no additional risk factors for VTE, we suggest against routine prophylaxis with LMWH or LDUH (Grade 2B) and recommend against the prophylactic use of vitamin K antagonists (Grade 1B).

Remarks: Additional risk factors for venous thrombosis in cancer outpatients include previous venous thrombosis, immobilization, hormonal therapy, angiogenesis inhibitors, thalidomide, and lenalidomide.

4.2.2. In outpatients with solid tumors who have additional risk factors for VTE and who are at low risk of bleeding, we suggest prophylactic-dose LMWH or LDUH over no prophylaxis (Grade 2B).

Remarks: Additional risk factors for venous thrombosis in cancer outpatients include previous venous thrombosis, immobilization, hormonal therapy, angiogenesis inhibitors, thalidomide, and lenalidomide.

4.4. In outpatients with cancer and indwelling central venous catheters, we suggest against routine prophylaxis with LMWH or LDUH (Grade 2B) and suggest against the prophylactic use of vitamin K antagonists (Grade 2C).

5.1. In chronically immobilized persons residing at home or at a nursing home, we suggest against the routine use of thromboprophylaxis (Grade 2C).

6.1.1. For long-distance travelers at increased risk of VTE (including previous VTE, recent surgery or trauma, active malignancy, pregnancy, estrogen use, advanced age, limited mobility, severe obesity, or known thrombophilic disorder), we suggest frequent ambulation, calf muscle exercise, or sitting in an aisle seat if feasible (Grade 2C).

6.1.2. For long-distance travelers at increased risk of VTE (including previous VTE, recent surgery or trauma, active malignancy, pregnancy, estrogen use, advanced age, limited mobility, severe obesity, or known thrombophilic disorder), we suggest use of properly fitted, below-knee GCS providing 15 to 30 mm Hg of pressure at the ankle during travel (Grade 2C). For all other long-distance travelers, we suggest against the use of GCS (Grade 2C).

6.1.3. For long-distance travelers, we suggest against the use of aspirin or anticoagulants to prevent VTE (Grade 2C).

7.1. In persons with asymptomatic thrombophilia (ie, without a previous history of VTE), we recommend against the long-term daily use of mechanical or pharmacologic thromboprophylaxis to prevent VTE (Grade 1C).

This article focuses on prevention of VTE in nonsurgical populations. Because they are addressed in other chapters in these guidelines,1,2 we do not include prevention of VTE in patients with trauma and spinal cord injury and in patients with ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke.

Adverse consequences of unprevented VTE include symptomatic DVT and pulmonary embolism (PE), fatal PE, chronic postthrombotic syndrome, and increased risk of recurrent VTE. We consider the desirable and undesirable consequences of antithrombotic prophylaxis to prevent VTE in the following populations/patient groups: (1) hospitalized acutely ill medical patients, (2) critically ill patients, (3) patients with cancer receiving cancer treatment in the outpatient setting, (4) patients with cancer with indwelling central venous catheters (CVCs), (5) Chronically immobilized patients, (6) long-distance travelers, and (7) asymptomatic persons with thrombophilia. We also consider the use of statins (HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors) to prevent VTE. Table 1 describes the question definition (population, intervention, comparator, and outcome) and eligibility criteria for studies considered in each section of this article.

Table Graphic Jump Location
Table 1 —[Introduction] Structured Clinical Questions

For tradeoff of benefits and harms, only symptomatic VTE events are considered. APLA = antiphospholipid antibodies; ASA = acetylsalicylic acid; DTI = direct thrombin inhibitor; GCS = graduated compression stockings; IPC = intermittent pneumatic compression; IVC = inferior vena cava; LAC = lupus anticoagulant; LDUH = low-dose unfractionated heparin; LMWH = low-molecular-weight heparin; PE = pulmonary embolism; RCT = randomized controlled trial; VKA = vitamin K antagonist.

The methodology of these guidelines follows the general approach of Methodology for the Development of Antithrombotic Therapy and Prevention of Thrombosis Guidelines. Antithrombotic Therapy and Prevention of Thrombosis, 9th ed: American College of Chest Physicians Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines in this supplement.3 In brief, panel members conducted literature searches to update the existing evidence base, seeking systematic reviews and trials published since the previous iteration of the guidelines, and rated the quality of the evidence using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation framework. The panel considered the balance of benefits and harm, patients’ values and preferences, and patients’ context and resources to develop weak or strong recommendations. In this article, we identified three areas with sparse high-quality evidence: (1) the benefits of prophylaxis as measured by reduction of the incidence of symptomatic VTE events, (2) resource use and cost-effectiveness, and (3) the benefits of screening strategies for VTE in nonsurgical patients.

1.1 Outcomes of Interest

We selected similar patient-important outcomes across recommendations. These include symptomatic DVT, PE, death from PE, major bleeding, heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT), and mechanical thromboprophylaxis complications (when applicable). In addition, for patients with CVCs, we include catheter failure as an outcome.

As the mortal outcome of greatest interest, when data were available, we have chosen treatment-related mortality (PE deaths, hemorrhagic deaths). For pharmacologic interventions, when available, we provide data on fatal bleeding and fatal intracranial bleeding as a subset of all-cause mortality, and for the outcome of major bleeding, when available, we provide data on intracranial bleeding and GI bleeding (the most common type of “critical organ” bleeding expected in nonsurgical populations). Given that anticoagulants used to prevent VTE are administered for short periods of time, major bleeding and fatal bleeding are likely to be rare events, except during critical illness.

1.2 Values and Preferences

Little is known about the distribution of patients’ values and preferences in the context of VTE prevention in nonsurgical settings. In developing the recommendations for this guideline, panelists made estimates of patients’ values and preferences often using indirect data from other settings (eg, values and preferences that pertain to anticoagulation in atrial fibrillation).

In our populations, the weights (relative importance) given to the harmful effects (disutilities) of the most representative types of critical organ bleeding, namely GI or, less commonly, intracranial bleeding, will greatly impact the tradeoff between desirable and undesirable consequences of antithrombotic therapy. There are limited data to guide us with respect to the relative impact of VTE events vs bleeding events on patient-perceived state of health; available evidence suggests values and preferences for treatments and for health states vary appreciably between individuals.4

In a values rating exercise, Antithrombotic Therapy and Prevention of Thrombosis, 9th ed: American College of Chest Physicians Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines panelists used a “feeling thermometer” with anchors at 0 (representing death) and 100 (representing full health) to rate patient scenarios for various clinical outcomes in terms of the value placed on a year in which the events depicted in the scenario occurred.3 Median ratings were similar for the outcomes of symptomatic DVT, PE, and catheter thrombosis (80, 75, and 80, respectively) and severe GI bleeding (75), whereas the median rating for intracranial bleeding (stroke scenario) was 40. Therefore, we used 1:1 ratio of symptomatic VTE to major extracranial bleeding and 2.5:1 ratio of symptomatic VTE to intracranial bleeding for tradeoffs.

We considered that preventative and screening recommendations require higher-quality evidence supporting benefit than therapy recommendations. This decision is a value-based judgment. In making our recommendations, when there is uncertain benefit and an appreciable probability of important harm or patient burden associated with treatment, we recommend against such treatments.

1.3 Estimating Baseline Risk

In making clinical recommendations, guideline developers need to consider the balance of benefits and harms in terms of absolute treatment effect on patient-important symptomatic events in addition to relative measures of risk. The panelists of the four articles dealing with VTE prevention faced challenges in finding these data and developed several possible approaches for estimating the effect of prophylaxis on the incidence of symptomatic VTE events. In this article, we used two different approaches for hospitalized patients in non-critical care settings and for critically ill patients, based on the availability of data.

1.3.1 Baseline Risk in Hospitalized Medical Patients:

Since medical patients have a significantly heterogeneous risk for VTE, the guideline panel sought to evaluate preventive strategies in two different strata of patients (low risk and high risk). We decided against simply using as the baseline estimate the pooled average risk of DVT (0.8%) and PE (0.4%) reported in the control arms of the randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of thromboprophylaxis in hospitalized medical patients, as it is evident from the trials’ eligibility criteria that patients with heterogeneous risk were enrolled (Table S1) (Tables that contain an “S” before the number denote supplementary tables not contained in the body of the article and available online. See the “Acknowledgments” for more information.). Also, there is uncertainty about the generalizability of trial results to other populations, as in many of the trials the ratio of patients screened to patients enrolled was very high (eg, ≥ 100), and probable underestimation of absolute numbers of symptomatic events, as patients diagnosed with asymptomatic DVT via trial-mandated screening tests are typically treated with anticoagulants. Incidence estimates from most observational studies were unsatisfactory because they were not stratified by the use of thromboprophylaxis and were also reported in very heterogenous populations (Table S2).

To estimate baseline risk for patients with low and high VTE risk, we used data from risk assessment models (RAMs). Several RAMs have been proposed for use in hospitalized medical patients (Table S3).57 Limitations of most RAMs include lack of prospective validation, applicability only to high-risk subgroups, inadequate follow-up time, and excessive complexity.

In a prospective observational study of 1,180 inpatients, a predefined RAM (Padua Prediction Score, modified after Kucher8) assigned points to 11 common VTE risk factors (Table 2)9 and categorized hospitalized medical patients as low risk (< 4 points; 60.3% of patients) or high risk (≥ 4 points; 39.7% of patients) for VTE. Attending physicians were not notified of their patients’ risk categories. Patients were followed for symptomatic VTE for 90 days. VTE occurred in 11.0% of high-risk patients who did not receive prophylaxis vs 0.3% of low-risk patients, a > 30-fold difference in risk (hazard ratio [HR], 32.0; 95% CI, 4.1-251.0). Among 711 low-risk patients, two (0.3%) developed VTE (1 PE, 1 PE with DVT). Among 283 high-risk patients who did not receive prophylaxis, the risk of DVT was 6.7%, nonfatal PE 3.9%, and fatal PE 0.4%. Hence, for baseline risk for low- and high-risk strata, we used risk estimates provided by the Padua Prediction Score.9 Despite the limitations of this risk model (small number of events, suboptimal validation), this model provides the best available basis for judging hospitalized patients’ risk.

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Table 2 —Risk Factors for VTE in Hospitalized Medical Patients9

In the Padua Prediction Score risk assessment model, high risk of VTE is defined by a cumulative score ≥ 4 points. In a prospective observational study of 1,180 medical inpatients, 60.3% of patients were low risk and 39.7% were high risk. Among patients who did not receive prophylaxis, VTE occurred in 11.0% of high-risk patients vs 0.3% of low-risk patients (HR, 32.0; 95% CI, 4.1-251.0). Among high-risk patients, the risk of DVT was 6.7%, nonfatal PE 3.9%, and fatal PE 0.4%.9 HR = hazard ratio.

a 

Patients with local or distant metastases and/or in whom chemotherapy or radiotherapy had been performed in the previous 6 mo.

b 

Anticipated bed rest with bathroom privileges (either because of patient's limitations or on physician's order) for at least 3 d.

c 

Carriage of defects of antithrombin, protein C or S, factor V Leiden, G20210A prothrombin mutation, antiphospholipid syndrome.

We considered a number of options for baseline risk of major bleeding. We considered bleeding events reported in the Padua prediction score study. However, this study stratified bleeding events according to thrombosis risk, not bleeding risk (1 of 283 in the low VTE risk group [0.4%; 95% CI, 0.0-2.0] and 1 of 711 in the high VTE risk group [0.1%; 95% CI, 0.0-0.8]).9 We also considered bleeding events in a large observational study by Decousus10; however, this study did not report bleeding according to use of pharmacoprophylaxis. Therefore, we chose to use 0.4% (19 of 4,304) derived from the control arm of trials of thromboprophylaxis in medical patients as the estimate of baseline risk of major bleeding (section 2.1). Where possible, we presented data on intracranial bleeding separately from major bleeding events.

1.3.2 Baseline Risk in Critically Ill Patients:

Critical care trials have routinely screened patients for asymptomatic DVT, which are usually promptly treated if detected. Hence, an accurate estimate of risk of symptomatic DVT is not available from trials of critically ill patients receiving no prophylaxis, and PE events are generally rare. We used two approaches to estimate the baseline risk and absolute risk difference in critically ill patients. When symptomatic events were reported, such as DVT in the trials by Shorr et al11 and in PROTECT,12 we used these data directly to estimate the baseline risk, relative risk (RR), and risk difference. When symptomatic events were not reported in the trials, such as the PE outcome in trials that compared unfractionated heparin (UFH) or low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) vs placebo, we opted to use a baseline risk derived from symptomatic PEs reported in three observational studies.1315 The risk ratio (RR) was derived from the trials in which events were likely a mix of symptomatic and asymptomatic events. The former approach has the advantage of directness but may suffer from imprecision and poor applicability. The latter approach requires imputations that make the evidence indirect.

2.1 Risk Factors for VTE in Hospitalized Medical Patients

Hospitalization for acute medical illness is associated with an eightfold increased risk of VTE16 and accounts for about one-fourth of all VTE events in the community.17,18 Among hospitalized patients, 50% to 75% of VTE events, including fatal PE, occur in those hospitalized on the medical service.16,19 Risk factors for VTE in hospitalized medical patients include intrinsic factors, such as increasing age (especially > 70 years), previous VTE, known thrombophilia, and various comorbid illnesses, such as cancer, heart failure, or respiratory failure, and extrinsic factors, such as immobilization for ≥ 3 days and hormonal medications5,2022 (Table 2).9

2.2 Risk Factors for Bleeding in Hospitalized Medical Patients

A recent multinational observational study reported on risk factors at admission that were independently predictive of in-hospital bleeding (the analysis combined major and nonmajor clinically relevant bleeding) among 10,866 hospitalized medical patients. The strongest risk factors were active gastroduodenal ulcer, bleeding in 3 months before admission, and platelet count < 50 × 109/L, followed by age > 85 years, hepatic failure, severe renal failure, and ICU or critical care unit admission (Table 3).10 Although data on incidence of bleeding were not provided separately by use vs nonuse of prophylaxis (overall rate of major bleeding was 0.76%), the above variables remained predictive of bleeding when the model was adjusted for pharmacologic prophylaxis. A bleeding risk score that included these and additional variables was developed by the authors, who reported that more than one-half of all major bleeding episodes occurred in the 10% of hospitalized medical patients who had a bleeding risk score ≥ 7.0.

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Table 3 —Independent Risk Factors for Bleeding in 10,866 Hospitalized Medical Patient10

Data shown were obtained by multiple logistic regression analysis for characteristics at admission independently associated with in-hospital bleeding (major bleeding and clinically relevant nonmajor bleeding combined). GFR = glomerular filtration rate; INR = international normalized ratio.

a 

Although not specifically studied in medical patients, one would also expect dual antiplatelet therapy to increase the risk of bleeding.

Although this risk score is complex and has not yet been validated, the panel considered patients to have an excessive risk of bleeding if they had multiple risk factors or had one of the three risk factors with the strongest association with bleeding (OR > 3.0): active gastroduodenal ulcer, bleeding in 3 months before admission, and platelet count < 50 × 109/L.

2.3 Any Anticoagulant vs None to Prevent VTE

We used data from three contemporary, high-quality systematic reviews to assess the benefits and harms of anticoagulant prophylaxis vs no prophylaxis in hospitalized, acutely ill medical patients.2325 In general, the trials included acutely ill hospitalized patients (typically, the mean age of enrolled patients was > 65 years) admitted for congestive heart failure, severe respiratory disease, or acute infectious, rheumatic, or inflammatory conditions, who were immobilized and had one or more additional VTE risk factors including but not limited to age > 40 years, active cancer, previous VTE, or serious infection (Table S2). Prophylactic anticoagulant regimens included low-dose unfractionated heparin (LDUH) tid, LDUH bid, various LMWHs, and fondaparinux. Duration of use of prophylaxis ranged from 6-21 days or discharge from hospital, whichever came first. In all trials, routine screening for DVT was performed.

Meta-analysis of these trials demonstrates that anticoagulant thromboprophylaxis is associated with significant reduction in fatal PEs (RR, 0.41; 95% CI, 0.22-0.76; two fewer per 1,000 [95% CI, from one fewer to three fewer]). When we apply the relative effect of anticoagulant thromboprophylaxis obtained from these meta-analyses to baseline risks obtained from risk assessment models, we find that thromboprophylaxis is associated with a reduction in symptomatic DVT (RR, 0.47; 95% CI, 0.22-1; one fewer per 1,000 [95% CI, from one fewer to 0 fewer] in low-risk patients; 34 fewer per 1,000 [95% CI, from 51 fewer to 0 fewer] in high-risk patients). The effect on nonfatal PE, major bleeding, and all-cause mortality was not statistically significant and is described in terms of relative and absolute effects (Table 4, Table S4). No trial reported the incidence of HIT.

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Table 4 —[Section 2.3] Summary of Findings: Should Anticoagulant Prophylaxis (LMWH, UFH, Fondaparinux) vs Placebo/No Treatment Be Used in Hospitalized Medical Patients?24-26

GRADE = Grades of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation; RR = risk ratio; UFH = unfractionated heparin. See Table 1 legend for expansion of other abbreviations.

a 

Baseline risk for DVT and PE in low-risk population were derived from the RAM by Barbar et al.9 Baseline risk for mortality and bleeding is derived from the control arm of medical patients in a meta-analysis (Dentali et al).24

b 

We will consider the presence of serious imprecision when there are <300 events in total (events in treatment and control patients) or when CIs include appreciable harms and benefits.

Based on these data, the panel judged that moderate-quality evidence suggests that thromboprophylaxis is effective in reducing symptomatic DVT and fatal PE in acutely ill, hospitalized, immobilized medical patients who have characteristics similar to those enrolled in the above RCTs, and moderate-quality evidence suggests a modest relative and very small absolute increase in bleeding risk. Based on the above RCTs, the panel considered that providing prophylaxis for 6 to 21 days, until full mobility is restored or until discharge from hospital, whichever comes first, is a reasonable approach. The recommendation to prophylax applies only to the higher-risk patients (Table 2). In low-risk patients, VTE is too infrequent to warrant prophylaxis.

2.4 LDUH vs LMWH to Prevent VTE

LDUH and LMWH (enoxaparin, nadroparin, or certoparin) have been directly compared in five RCTs.2630 Eligibility criteria for RCTs of LDUH vs LMWH in hospitalized medical patients were similar to trials of any anticoagulant vs none to prevent VTE and are shown in Table S5. In all trials, routine screening for DVT was performed. Dosing of LDUH was tid in four trials and bid in one trial.26

Pooled results failed to exclude benefit or harm for LMWH vs LDUH for the outcomes DVT (RR, 0.77; 95% CI, 0.50-1.19), PE (RR, 1.00; 95% CI, 0.28-3.59), overall mortality (RR, 0.89; 95% CI, 0.65-1.23), and HIT (RR, 0.50; 95% CI, 0.05-5.48) (Table 5, Table S6). Pooled results for major bleeding suggest a large relative protective effect of LMWH (RR, 0.48; 95% CI, 0.24-0.99) and small absolute (five fewer; 95% CI, 0-7 fewer) reduction in bleeding events per 1,000 patients treated. Evidence is consistent with a similar effect of LMWH and UFH on reduction in thrombosis in acutely ill hospitalized medical patients (though imprecision is such that effects could, in relative terms, be appreciably greater in one treatment or the other). The potential for less bleeding with LMWH represents a benefit that is small, and it may be very small.

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Table 5 —[Section 2.4] Summary of Findings: Should Anticoagulant Prophylaxis With LMWH vs UFH be Used in Hospitalized Medical Patients?23,171

See Table 1 and 4 legends for expansion of abbreviations.

a 

Baseline risk is derived from the median control group risk across studies.

b 

We will consider the presence of serious imprecision when there are <300 events in total (events in treatment and control patients) or when confidence intervals include appreciable harms and benefits.

c 

The RR used to estimate risk difference included a mix of symptomatic and asymptomatic events, whereas the baseline risk (risk with UFH) was derived from symptomatic events (Riess et al30).

d 

Only one study (Riess et al30) reported this outcome, suggesting possible reporting bias.

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Table 6 —[Section 2.6] Summary of Findings: Should Aspirin or Other Antiplatelet Drugs Be Used in Hospitalized Medical Patients?59

See Table 1 and 4 legends for expansion of abbreviations.

a 

Baseline risk for DVT and PE are derived from the RAM by Barbar et al.9 Baseline risk for mortality and bleeding is derived from the control arm of medical patients in a meta-analysis (Dentali et al).24

b 

Evidence is indirect because the relative effect is primarily derived from surgical patients (555 of the 26,890 patients included in PEP trial report meta-analysis were high-risk medical patients). DVT and PE baseline risk estimates are derived from a risk assessment model derived in a cohort with a small number of outcome events, hence have uncertainty about them. This uncertainty can be labeled as imprecision or indirectness. Some of the PE events in this meta-analysis may have been fatal.

c 

We will consider the presence of serious imprecision when there are <300 events in total (events in treatment and control patients) or when CIs include appreciable harms and benefits.

2.5 LDUH bid vs tid to Prevent VTE

The International Medical Prevention Registry on Venous Thromboembolism (IMPROVE), a registry of 15,156 acutely ill hospitalized medical patients enrolled at 52 hospitals in 12 countries, documented marked variation in practices in dosing frequency of LDUH used to prevent VTE. LDUH was prescribed tid in 54% of patients from the United States compared with bid in 85% of non-US patients.31

There have been no head-to-head trials comparing bid vs tid LDUH to prevent VTE in hospitalized medical patients. We conducted a mixed-treatment comparison meta-analysis of 16 RCTs that enrolled hospitalized nonsurgical patients at risk for VTE and compared LDUH bid, LDUH tid, or LMWH to each other or to an inactive control.32 The RR and 95% credible intervals comparing LDUH tid to LDUH bid for DVT, PE, death, and major bleeding (all were indirect comparisons) were 1.56 (0.64-4.33), 1.67 (0.49-208.09), 1.17 (0.72-1.95), and 0.89 (0.08-7.05), respectively. Due to a lack of reporting, we could not perform this analysis for the outcome HIT. The low-quality evidence from these indirect comparisons provides no compelling evidence that LDUH tid dosing, compared with bid dosing, reduces VTE or causes more bleeding. A future randomized trial comparing these agents is unlikely, considering the large sample size that would be required to demonstrate a significant difference, which, if it exists, is undoubtedly small. From a patient preference perspective, twice daily injections are likely to be preferred and better tolerated than thrice daily injections.

2.6 Anticoagulant Thromboprophylaxis in Acutely Ill Hospitalized Medical Patients From a Resource Perspective

Almost all cost-effectiveness analyses in this population have reported costs per VTE or death averted with the use of anticoagulant prophylaxis, but few studies have reported costs per quality-adjusted life-year gained to compare against preexisting benchmarks. Two studies that reported incremental costs of $65 to $2,534 per quality-adjusted life-year gained over no prophylaxis were both sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry.33,34 In populations at sufficiently high risk (Tables 2, 6, Table S7), pharmacoprophylaxis is likely to be favorable from a resource standpoint for preventing VTE.35,36 The comparison between different types of prophylaxis, however, is less clear.

Several studies have suggested that choosing LMWH over LDUH is cost neutral, or even cost saving.3741 However, the quality of these analyses is moderate at best. First, many of the authors have had financial disclosures with the pharmaceutical industry, and whether these ties influence the cost-neutral or cost-saving results of LMWH over LDUH is unclear. Second, the performance estimates used in most of these studies have been extracted from the Medical Patients with Enoxaparin (MEDENOX) trial, which did not directly compare LMWH to LDUH42 and enrolled a very small proportion of patients screened for eligibility, thereby limiting generalizability. Third, although the acquisition costs of LMWH are higher up front (or similar, depending on individual hospital formulary pricing), the eventual cost savings come from treating fewer adverse events—primarily HIT and, possibly, major bleeding—farther downstream. A recent thromboprophylaxis trial in 3,764 critically ill patients reported that the incidence of HIT was 0.3% in patients who received LMWH vs 0.7% in patients who received LDUH;12 however, a meta-analysis of HIT in patients being treated for acute DVT or PE found no difference in incidence when using LMWH or LDUH.43 Although the population of this meta-analysis is different from those in the critical care trial; adding the trial data to the meta-analysis does not change its conclusion (RR, 0.71; 95% CI, 0.45-1.11).

In summary, there is no clear evidence in the current literature to support choosing one form of pharmacoprophylaxis over another in the medical population based on outcomes or from a cost-effectiveness standpoint. It would be reasonable to make choices based on patient preference, compliance, and ease of administration (eg, daily vs bid vs tid dosing), as well as on local factors affecting acquisition costs.

2.7 Mechanical Methods of Thromboprophylaxis in Hospitalized Medical Patients

Mechanical methods of thromboprophylaxis include graduated compression stockings (GCS), intermittent pneumatic compression devices (IPCs), and venous foot pumps (VFPs). These devices reduce venous stasis, a risk factor for VTE, by displacing blood from the superficial to the deep venous system via the perforating veins, thereby increasing the velocity and volume of flow in the deep system.44 Most studies of mechanical thromboprophylaxis have been conducted in surgical patients. The primary attraction of mechanical methods is that they do not cause bleeding; hence they may have advantages for patients at risk for VTE who cannot receive anticoagulant-based thromboprophylaxis because they are bleeding or are at risk for bleeding.

2.7.1 Stockings to Prevent VTE:

Direct evidence from hospitalized nonsurgical patients is available from three randomized trials that have evaluated the use of thigh-length GCS to prevent VTE in patients with myocardial infarction (one trial)45 and stroke (two trials)46,47 (Table 7, Table S8). In pooled analyses, results failed to demonstrate or exclude a beneficial effect on symptomatic DVT or PE. Stocking use increased the risk of skin breaks/ulcers but failed to demonstrate or exclude an effect on lower limb ischemia or amputation. It is not known if hospitalized medical patients have a similar risk of skin complications as hospitalized stroke patients.

Table Graphic Jump Location
Table 7 —[Section 2.7.1] Summary of Findings: Should Graduated Compression Stockings vs No Stockings Be Used in Hospitalized Medical Patients?45,47,48

Number of participants is the number of patients who received graduated compression stockings. See Table 1 and 4 legends for expansion of abbreviations.

a 

Baseline risk for DVT and PE are derived from the RAM by Barbar et al.9 Baseline risk for mortality and bleeding is derived from the control arm of medical patients in a meta-analysis (Dentali et al24). Baseline risk for lower leg ischemia and skin breaks (derived from the control arms of CLOTS trial 1).

b 

We will consider the presence of serious imprecision when there are <300 events in total (events in treatment and control patients) or when confidence intervals include appreciable harms and benefits. The exception is for low-risk patients in whom the absolute difference in PE and DVT is fairly small and precise.

c 

Data on skin breaks are from stroke patients.

d 

Assessment of outcomes was based on case-note review and was not blinded to treatment allocation.

In a recent multicenter RCT that compared knee-length to thigh-length GCS to prevent VTE in immobilized patients with acute stroke, proximal DVT (symptomatic or asymptomatic) occurred in 98 of 1,552 (6.3%) patients who received thigh-length stockings vs 138 of 1,562 (8.8%) who received below-knee stockings (RR, 0.71; 95% CI, 0.56-0.92), with no differences between groups in rates of deaths or PE.48 Skin breaks occurred in 3.9% and 2.9% of patients allocated to thigh-length and knee-length GCS, respectively. These results are difficult to interpret alongside evidence from the CLOTS1 trial that thigh-length GCS were not effective to prevent VTE but suggest that if GCS are used, thigh length is preferred to knee length.49

2.7.2 Intermittent Pneumatic Compression Devices to Prevent VTE:

An international registry of 15,156 hospitalized acutely ill medical patients found that 22% of US patients received IPC to prevent VTE compared with only 0.2% of patients in other countries.31 There are no published studies of IPC or VFP devices in hospitalized medical patients. Data are available from a meta-analysis of 22 trials that assessed IPC and VFP, primarily in surgical patients.50 IPC devices failed to demonstrate or to exclude a beneficial effect on mortality or PE but reduced the risk of DVT (Table 8, Table S9). No data are available on skin complications of IPC use, but one might plausibly expect rates to be similar to those of GCS. The panel considered that the evidence for the different outcomes should be rated down due to indirectness because the RR estimates are derived from surgical populations, in whom effects of IPC may be different than in medical patients, and from a mix of symptomatic and asymptomatic events.

Table Graphic Jump Location
Table 8 —[Section 2.7.2] Summary of Findings: Should Intermittent Pneumatic Compression Be Used in Hospitalized Nonsurgical Patients With Restricted Mobility?25,51,172,173

See Table 1 and 4 legends for expansion of abbreviations.

a 

Baseline risk for DVT and PE are derived from the RAM by Barbar et al.9 Baseline risk for mortality is derived from the control arm of medical patients in a meta-analysis (Dentali et al24).

b 

Serious indirectness is considered because: RR for PE is derived from surgical patients (Roderick et al50). RR data are presented for IPC used as monotherapy because this is most relevant to the way IPCs are used in medical patients (ie, in patients who cannot receive anticoagulation). If IPCs are used alone or as adjunct to anticoagulant/antiplatelet therapy, RR is 0.77 (0.41-1.43). This does not change the conclusions of this evidence profile. Another element of indirectness is that DVT in these surgical patients was primarily asymptomatic DVT as ascertained by systematic imaging tests. RR for proximal asymptomatic DVT was similar (0.52; 95% CI, 0.37-0.73). RR data are presented for IPC used as monotherapy because this is most relevant to the way IPCs are used in medical patients (ie, in patients who cannot receive anticoagulation). If IPCs are used alone or as adjunct to anticoagulant/antiplatelet therapy, RR is 0.49 (0.37-0.63). This does not change the conclusions of this eviden